Reliefs from Tel Halaf dating to the Aramean kingdom of Bit Bahiani Around the 14th century BC, various Semitic peoples appeared in the area, such as the semi-nomadic Suteans who came into an unsuccessful conflict with Babylonia to the east, and the West Semitic speaking Arameans who subsumed the earlier Amorites. They too were subjugated by Assyria and the Hittites for centuries. The Egyptians fought the Hittites for control over western Syria; the fighting reached its zenith in BC with the Battle of Kadesh.
From this point, the region became known as Aramea or Aram. There was also a synthesis between the Semitic Arameans and the remnants of the Indo-European Hittites , with the founding of a number of Syro-Hittite states centered in north central Aram Syria and south central Asia Minor modern Turkey , including Palistin , Carchemish and Sam'al. From these coastal regions they eventually spread their influence throughout the Mediterranean , including building colonies in Malta , Sicily, the Iberian peninsula modern Spain and Portugal , the coasts of North Africa, and most significantly, founding the major city state of Carthage in modern Tunisia in the 9th century BC which was much later to become the center of a major empire, rivaling the Roman Empire.
The Assyrians introduced Imperial Aramaic as the lingua franca of their empire. This language was to remain dominant in Syria and the entire Near East until after the Arab Islamic conquest in the 7th and 8th centuries AD, and was to be a vehicle for the spread of Christianity. Assyrian domination ended after the Assyrians greatly weakened themselves in a series of brutal internal civil wars, followed by an attacking coalition of their former subject peoples; the Medes , Babylonians , Chaldeans , Persians , Scythians and Cimmerians.
During the fall of Assyria, the Scythians ravaged and plundered much of Syria. During this period, Syria became a battle ground between Babylonia and another former Assyrian colony, that of Egypt. The Babylonians, like their Assyrian relations, were victorious over Egypt. Thus, it was the Greeks who introduced the name "Syria" to the region. Originally an Indo-European corruption of "Assyria" in northern Mesopotamia, the Greeks used this term to describe not only Assyria itself but also the lands to the west which had for centuries been under Assyrian dominion.
Eventually parts of southern Seleucid Syria were taken by Judean Hasmoneans upon the slow disintegration of the Hellenistic Empire. Syria briefly came under Armenian control from 83 BC, with the conquests of the Armenian king Tigranes the Great , who was welcomed as a savior from the Seleucids and Romans by the Syrian people. However, Pompey the Great , a general of the Roman Empire rode to Syria, captured Antioch , its capital, and turned Syria into a Roman province in 64 BC, thus ending the Armenian control over the region which had lasted two decades.
Syria prospered under Roman rule, being strategically located on the silk road which gave it massive wealth and importance, making it the battleground for the rivaling Romans and Persians. Temple of Jupiter, Damascus Palmyra , a rich and sometimes powerful native Aramaic -speaking kingdom arose in northern Syria in the 2nd century; the Palmyrene established a trade network that made the city one of the richest in the Roman empire.
Prior to the Arab Islamic Conquest in the 7th century AD, the bulk of the population were Arameans , but Syria was also home to Greek and Roman ruling classes, Assyrians still dwelt in the north east, Phoenicians along the coasts, and Jewish and Armenian communities was also extant in major cities, with Nabateans and pre-Islamic Arabs such as the Lakhmids and Ghassanids dwelling in the deserts of southern Syria. Syria's large and prosperous population made Syria one of the most important of the Roman and Byzantine provinces, particularly during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
The matriarch of the family and Empress of Rome as wife of emperor Septimius Severus was Julia Domna , a Syrian from the city of Emesa modern day Homs , whose family held hereditary rights to the priesthood of the god El-Gabal. Her great nephews, also Arameans from Syria, would also become Roman Emperors, the first being Elagabalus and the second, his cousin Alexander Severus.
He was emperor from to ,  and ruled briefly during the Crisis of the Third Century. During his reign, he focused on his home town of Philippopolis modern day Shahba and began many construction projects to improve the city, most of which were halted after his death. Syria is significant in the history of Christianity ; Saulus of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul , was converted on the Road to Damascus and emerged as a significant figure in the Christian Church at Antioch in ancient Syria, from which he left on many of his missionary journeys.
List of battles of Muhammad Muhammad 's first interaction with the people and tribes of Syria was during the Invasion of Dumatul Jandal in July  where he ordered his followers to invade Duma, because Muhammad received intelligence that some tribes there were involved in highway robbery and preparing to attack Medina itself. Watt says "It is tempting to suppose that Muhammad was already envisaging something of the expansion which took place after his death", and that the rapid march of his troops must have "impressed all those who heard of it".
In the mid-7th century, the Umayyad dynasty , then rulers of the empire, placed the capital of the empire in Damascus. The country's power declined during later Umayyad rule; this was mainly due to totalitarianism, corruption and the resulting revolutions.
The Umayyad dynasty was then overthrown in by the Abbasid dynasty , which moved the capital of empire to Baghdad. Arabic — made official under Umayyad rule — became the dominant language, replacing Greek and Aramaic of the Byzantine era. In , the Egypt-based Tulunids annexed Syria from the Abbasids, and were later replaced by once the Egypt-based Ikhshidids and still later by the Hamdanids originating in Aleppo founded by Sayf al-Dawla.
The Mongols under Ghazan defeated the Mamluks. Sections of Syria were held by French, English, Italian and German overlords between and AD during the Crusades and were known collectively as the Crusader states among which the primary one in Syria was the Principality of Antioch. The coastal mountainous region was also occupied in part by the Nizari Ismailis , the so-called Assassins , who had intermittent confrontations and truces with the Crusader States.
Later in history when "the Nizaris faced renewed Frankish hostilities, they received timely assistance from the Ayyubids. Aleppo fell to the Mongols of Hulegu in January , and Damascus in March, but then Hulegu was forced to break off his attack to return to China to deal with a succession dispute. The Mamluk leader, Baibars , made Damascus a provincial capital. When he died, power was taken by Qalawun. In the meantime, an emir named Sunqur al-Ashqar had tried to declare himself ruler of Damascus, but he was defeated by Qalawun on 21 June , and fled to northern Syria.
Al-Ashqar, who had married a Mongol woman, appealed for help from the Mongols. The Mongols of the Ilkhanate took the city, but Qalawun persuaded Al-Ashqar to join him, and they fought against the Mongols on 29 October , in the Second Battle of Homs , which was won by the Mamluks.
The city's inhabitants were massacred, except for the artisans, who were deported to Samarkand. Timur-Lenk also conducted specific massacres of the Aramean and Assyrian Christian populations, greatly reducing their numbers. Ottoman Syria Main article: The Ottoman system was not burdensome to Syrians because the Turks respected Arabic as the language of the Quran , and accepted the mantle of defenders of the faith.
Damascus was made the major entrepot for Mecca , and as such it acquired a holy character to Muslims, because of the beneficial results of the countless pilgrims who passed through on the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. His short-term rule over the domain attempted to change the demographics and social structure of the region: By , however, he had to surrender the area back to the Ottomans.
From , Tanzimat reforms were applied on Ottoman Syria, carving out the provinces vilayets of Aleppo , Zor , Beirut and Damascus Vilayet ; Mutasarrifate of Mount Lebanon was created, as well, and soon after the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem was given a separate status. During the conflict, genocide against indigenous Christian peoples was carried out by the Ottomans and their allies in the form of the Armenian Genocide and Assyrian Genocide , of which Deir ez-Zor , in Ottoman Syria, was the final destination of these death marches.
Initially, the two territories were separated by a border that ran in an almost straight line from Jordan to Iran. However, the discovery of oil in the region of Mosul just before the end of the war led to yet another negotiation with France in to cede this region to 'Zone B', or the British zone of influence. This border was later recognized internationally when Syria became a League of Nations mandate in  and has not changed to date. French Mandate Main articles: However, his rule over Syria ended after only a few months, following the Battle of Maysalun.
French troops occupied Syria later that year after the San Remo conference.